Sunday, 28 December 2008

Cashmere v polyamide = no contest

Hope you have had a good christmas. I had a stomach bug from christmas day until yesterday with a few sniffles that don't seem to have developed into anything.

I went shopping in the sales today and was so horrified by some of the items of clothing on offer I nearly ran out of the shops screaming. Perhaps all the usual items have already been in the perpetual sale that has been held since November in Britain due to the recession! All I could find was a pair of bed socks reduced from £9.50 to £4 and they were manmade and brown! Why would I buy those when I could knit a beautiful pair in cashmere in whatever colour I want from the above book by Erika Knight?

The jumpers in this book are so beautiful - the photography is stunning and the clothes the models are wearing with the knits are truly amazing.

I already have two of her books which I am similarly impressed with - but this is the best so far. If you are looking for stylish funky knits that will suit a variety of occasions (I can imagine myself wearing one or two for work as well as at the weekend) then this book is perfect for you. Erika Knight rocks!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Meet Ed the Ted

Yes! The Debbie Bliss teddy bear I started knitting in early October was finally brought to life last week! After many weeks lying in dismembered pieces in my knitting bag and me nervously catching a glimpse of it every time I went to get my wrist warmers out, Edward is finally alive...

I have not done so bad considering I've been knitting for 6 months and it's my first ever teddy bear. It was nothing like making a felt stuffie and there were times when I nearly gave up. About 50% of it was sewing it together, not simply, but with darts and tapering. As a knitting and cross stitch fan (someone who craves pattern and order) I think the sewing and making up was a little fiddly, but something that will come with a lot more practice.

As you can probably see from the photo the first sole I sewed into the foot didn't match the grain of the stocking stitch and therefore it draws your attention to the fact that it's sewn in. The right sole was perfect as I realised how to do it!

The body is a little strangely shaped, again probably due to the stuffing forming lumps - once I have used up all my cheap stuffing I will probably buy a nicer bag.

Lastly, the jumper turned out rather large. I did have to substitute all the yarns in the Debbie Bliss book as it's very old. I tried altering the buttons to make it fit him tighter, but I think he looks better without the jacket.

Anyway, see what you think...

I'm off to finish a grey-blue silk scarf for a christmas present - a project started before I learnt to rib and which now seems hideously dull! I won't be making many more scarves now that's for certain!

Happy knitting!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

No more garter stitch

I finally made them! Thanks to the free pattern from Julie from Little Cotton Rabbits I now have my very first item of clothing that isn't in garter stitch! The first few lines of double rib were a bit wobbly but I'm pleased with the double moss stitch.

I now have plans to make my own pattern and perhaps sell them in the near future. I ordered some Cashcroft DK in purple and am happily knitting another pair.

I'm off to finish my Debbie Bliss teddy bear...happy sewing!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Melanie Deegan

The other day I found myself in an art gallery. I have to be in the mood for art, so it happens only occasionally. We have a shop called 'Makers' which is a co-operative for artists. She sells everything from felted mittens to beautiful jumpers and felt collages on canvas! Upstairs she has a gallery with a small section playing host to an exhibition. This time it was the local scuplturer Melanie Deegan. When I read through her website afterwards I was so jealous! She lives in Wiveliscombe which is a very picturesque village a few miles from town and makes large sculptures for outside in big gardens too.

I particularly loved this horse, although it's a few hundred pounds. If I had the money I would have bought it, it's so amazing! It's so stunning because of the colour and the material - it looks like a silhouette. I love her!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Wrist warmer breakthrough!

Yesterday was a momentous day in my journey to the centre of the knitting world. I have tried ribbing many times but had always managed to produce a complete mess. Perhaps knitting stocking stitch has got me used to the purl stitch so much I can now relax and rib. I've always been like that...a bit of a plodder and slow learner, but I thoroughly absorb along the way.

I have been looking at all kinds of beautiful jumpers and getting frustrated that I can't knit 90% of them due to my inability to rib, so perhaps that spurred me on.

Of course Julie at Little Cotton Rabbits has really helped, as the above piece of knitting is from a pattern she gave away free on her blog. It's really simple as there is no shaping - that's my next task after practising rib a bit more and finishing these wrist warmers.

These will be great as the Rowan Handknit Cotton I have used is really soft. They will also leave your fingers and thumb free when shopping. I had bought a pair of fingerless gloves with a flap that comes over to turn them into mittens, but your thumb is still covered, making it difficult to open your purse and get money out without taking them off.

It also solves that problem of wearing a short sleeved top for an evening out as you could knit extra long ones to take the place of sleeves then discreetly slip them into your handbag when you get inside somewhere :)

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Glittery present gift tag

This was an experiment of mine...a combination of a silver sticker, some backing plastic and glitter glue pens. Actually now that I've dug it out again, it doesn't look so bad. When I was in the process of making it and the glue hadn't dried it looked pretty darned awful! All I need to do now is find some prettier cardboard to mount it on and cut the edges a pretty pattern...

Yes, sometimes I investigate the kids stationery section too!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Cath Kidston Competition

Last week a christmas catalogue arrived from Cath Kidston. I'm still off work so I had plenty of time to peruse at leisure and found a competition to enter! Even better there's a free pattern involved and you can win £75 worth of their sewing items if you win. I always love looking at the innovative designs of stockings in the shops and thinking what mine would look like. Mine used to be stuffed with chocolate coins, a selection box, a satsuma, a christmas edition of a magazine and a toy!

If you have the time to make a christmas stocking get cracking as the deadline is 17th December.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Strawberry Pincushion Tutorial

Recently I realised I didn't have a pincushion for my embroidery needles. I have tons as they give one away free with each kit you buy but I couldn't find one the other day and wasted time hunting one down. This is such an easy pincushion to make - a child could do it in a few hours.

All you do is trace round something circular of your desired size onto a red piece of felt. Next time I do a pincushion in the future, perhaps to sell or raise funds, I'll buy a larger piece of felt by the metre and use a dinner plate. For this project I used a large bowl turned upside down. Measure its diameter across four points and half it, thus finding the middle. Mark it with a pencil and draw a line through it, therefore splitting it into two halves. Cut and fold in half as above.

Sew the side of the strawberry, taking care as this will be visable when it's finished. Embroider little seeds in DMC 165 or similar. Stuff the inside of the strawberry putting slightly more in than you think will go so it's not limp when you sew it up.

Then sew a simple long stitch around the top of the circle and gather up. Sew in place securely. Don't worry, the top of the strawberry will be hidden.

Take some green felt and cut the leaf for the top, then carefully attach from underneath so the stiches don't show at the top.

Ahhh...I'm missing strawberries!

Update - you can now buy my strawberry in my etsy shop : ))

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Shades and stitches

Well, I've managed to emerge from my bed. It's been a bit touch and go since Tuesday morning, but I've finally managed to stop having the kind of violent nausea that makes you want to jump off a cliff! Of course, knitting has kept me sane. I have yet to finish the bear, but I have been experimenting with some more stitches from my book by Erika Knight in the picture above. I can still only manage to alternate knit and purl rows, not stitches, but there are about 10 stitches you can do on this basis...only 240 to learn! I tried cartridge stitch where you purl 2 rows out of 6. Underneath you can see my scribblings on a free pattern from the new Rowan website, trying to work out how you knit from a chart. I've bought some great knitting books so I managed it eventually!

I also found some shade cards on the Rowan website which I wanted ages ago but the site was being relaunched earlier this month. They cost £1.50 for each range but it will be so useful just to see at a glance which colours to choose from when making a present for someone or a bear. The net just isn't the same. I rang Debbie Bliss but you have to be a retailer for them to supply you. Totally understandable...happy stitching!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Bears galore!

First of all, a huge apology if you have found my blog, returned to it expecting another post and been disappointed. I wouldn't usually leave it three weeks to blog but I have been unwell and haven't been picking up my knitting as much as I usually would. I am suffering the side effects from some medication I have been taking to try and solve a physical medical problem. I am always so wary of drugs and tend to conclude, cycnically, that they don't work. The problem they have given me is much worse than the problem they were taken to solve, so it looks as if I've been proven right! I could get angry but I'll just take the prescribed week off work from my doctor and pick up my knitting and sewing!

A couple of days ago I managed to finish my teddy bear above. I can't believe the whole project only cost a few pounds as the pattern was free over on the DMC club website. There were so many browns and blues in the pattern I thought I would never finish, but it was fulfilling to see the shape form. I'm very fussy about bears - some patterns look horrendous and it's the same with knitting patterns, but this one is smart enough to meet my high standards! I'm so close to finishing my knitted teddy bear I will probably be blogging about it next week after my week off!

This is a long project I've been working on for the last two years. I bought it when I was unemployed but still didn't finish it! I've since learnt that smaller intermediate projects give me a high of making something much quicker...

It doesn't look so good in this photo but it's so stunning when you look at the finished picture on the pack. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are, of course, my favourite parts of London. Which reminds me to book some tickets for a shopping trip!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

A Teddy Bear's Jumper, a scarf and some more bootees...

How many projects can you see?! I must have about 5 or so knitting projects on the go, hence why no blogging. The pink square I'm knitting is for another pair of bootees. The green is for the jumper my teddy bear will wear, and the purple wool is for a scarf. I've heard it's going to be extremely cold next week so I've been frantically getting on with the scarf. As you can see it knits itself into rows of different colours and is so smart. It's 100% wool as well. The only problem is that sometimes it's so soft and fuzzy the texture becomes like candy floss and can easily snap.

The little pockets you can see are crammed too. One side has a few squares I've knitted for bootees, the other side has the ears, soles, body and head of my teddy bear, which I will go back to soon, after I finish the scarf!

Life has been a little too busy this week for my liking, and busy for the wrong reasons, doing things I didn't particularly enjoy! My only quiet day at work was monday but the weekend before was manic and things started getting frantic by tuesday. I've recently scooped up a part-time job due to my normal full-time job being (dealing with planning applications) reduced by the credit crunch. I do try and cram a little too much in my day, but that's because I have to have my couple of hours at least when I switch off and meditate with my knitting!

I read the article about Julie in Yours magazine, purely after reading her blog post about it. Her descriptions of getting up at 2am with Toby, who is severly autistic, and entertaining him are really humbling. It really shows how healthy having an absorbing hobby can be.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Booties and flowers

I've found having a bag specifically for my knitting has really helped me to get organised. In fact, I don't know how I coped without one. I normally have a few projects on the go - so am always really relieved when I finish one. I was attracted to these booties as they are in garter stitch from a Debbie Bliss book. They are each made from three knitted squares which are folded together cleverly. I tried to think of a way to cut down on the block of blue, like adding a white ribbon, but it wouldn't thread through as they are so thick. I could make two tiny pompoms to attach to the front.

Meanwhile I have been enjoying my beautiful birthday flowers!

I'm always like this with any flowers I buy or am given - a bit like taking the tree down at christmas - I just don't want to have to throw them out!

Monday, 6 October 2008

The ultimate ted!

This is the ultimate Ted. It's my sole aim in the next few months to make him. I never thought it was so easy to make a bear, but I'm only knitting the pieces of the smaller version of him (below) at the moment, and haven't shaped or sewn one up yet, but it's been relatively easy so far! Taking a couple of weeks to decide on the yarn as I couldn't find the one specified in the Debbie Bliss book meant that I have precisely the right shade and texture and feel really excited whenever I pick up my knitting.

It's my 28th birthday today and I love every minute of getting closer to 30. I don't know what I think will happen when I'm 30, but I do hope it happens, otherwise I might be setting myself up for disappointment if everything stays the same! My mum gave me the nicest present, which was chosen by me and inspired by Julie's Little Cotton Rabbits blog...she has the blue one. It's so perfect and pretty!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

London calling

I went to London for the day yesterday. It's always quite tiring fitting it into a day trip as we live 2 hours away from Paddington. As the early morning autumnal mist swept around the Houses of Parliament, I went for a long walk along Milbank before my 'Inspiration Day' began around the corner. I noticed a great deal than I did before when I worked in Westminster, that's for sure. I had never walked by the river for a start. It was so quiet and quite wonderful.

After my 'course' finished I rushed to Oxford Street to cram in some shopping before my train home. I'm so glad I did because look what I found! The perfect DK Tweed 50g Rowan ball ever to knit a Teddy Bear! It's so soft and has a very creamy texture.

I also found myself in paperchase. There are branches of Paperchase close to me here but they don't seem to stock the full range of notebooks. This one just has lined paper in. On the train home I managed to fill 5 pages of it with one heck of a 'To do' list and a whole list of thoughts...

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Rowan bliss

I've finally tried the Rowan range of yarn, and have vowed never to touch a ball priced under £3 ever again! The difference is unbelievable. First of all the ball band contains so much more information. Secondly, and most importantly, the yarn feels beautiful in my hands. I can't wait to pick my knitting up. I was knitting till late last night and it was the first thing I picked up this morning. I keep stroking the ball and can't believe how wonderfully soft it is, yet it's knitting up so strong. I found a second hand Debbie Bliss book for baby clothes for beginners a couple of weeks ago so am knitting up a pair of baby bootees. Not for me, (gladly!) but for donation to a local organisation to sell for funds, and if I make another pair for a charity. They are for newborn babies from 0-6 months and all the children in my family are toddlers or over 5.

I was so lucky to find two balls of this colour of DK handknit cotton in my local Rowan wool shop. It's not a small shop but it stocked about 10 colours in this range. There was another stunning shade of blue I wanted but there was only one ball left. The shop assistant was so much more helpful than the department store where I have gone previously. She couldn't wait to help and I may not have gone for the right length of needles if she hadn't rushed to my aid and given me two lengths to choose from. How wonderful! I won't mention names, but she certainly has replaced another craft shop in my town as my favourite purely because of the customer service!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Pretty Notes

Alice regularly blogs about her latest stationery obsessions, so I thought I would follow suit. As a writer I have the usual, relatively normal, fixation on notebooks: quality of paper, colour on the outside, the cover, whether it's spiral bound or glued, and how big it is. For example, does it matter if it doesn't fit in your handbag?

Over the years I've tried all different shapes, sizes and colours of notebooks. My favourites and most useful are usually A5 size, very pretty and spiral bound. When I was a student I scrimped and saved by buying cheap reporters notebooks, but they just didn't inspire me to write anything. Whenever I looked at the notebook I just felt poor and depressed, a bit like drinking out of a chipped mug!

I found this notebook in Waterstones who are stocking the 'KTwo' range. They are similar to Cath Kidston style but have a much wider range of notebooks. I particularly love the storage pockets at the back for receipts and vouchers. You can't see the 'To Call' section or the first page of the 'To Do' tab as I've filled a couple of pages already in the last two weeks. I've carried it around with me and it's not that heavy. It's so good to write a list of things that are floating around in your head before going to sleep!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Lavender Pillows

This is my very first foray into stitching freehand. I had found a long lost pattern for lavender that was buried deep in my room (I knew it was around somewhere). I was in a strange mood when I started this - I had just come in from a shopping trip bordering on heat exhaustion a couple of weeks ago, went upstairs, grabbed a pillowcase and sat down with my pattern and my threads. I hadn't planned it at all, in fact I had searched for the pattern and bought the threads to make lavender sachet bags to sell. Perhaps the act of planning things out bores me when making things...

Of course it isn't quite finished yet - but I'm pretty proud of the way it's turned out for my first attempt!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Blossom and fruit

A few months ago I was in awe of the mound of apple blossom overhanging the shed in the corner of our I'm in awe of all the apples! We picked a lot of them (with our landlord's permission) a couple of weeks ago - but supply has hugely outweighed demand and we are left with a lawn full of fruit! I wish I had my camera when the blossom was out it was the most beautiful I've seen. I can't remember our apple tree when I was a child blossoming so spectacularly.

I did try one of them but wasn't sure about the dry watery taste to them - I was going to use them to make apple crumble but I'm not sure if they're strong enough. I'm probably being dumb here and there's lots of tasty things you can bake from watery weak apples!

If you have been reading this blog regularly you'll have noticed that I'm not hugely keen on summer, and autumn is my favourite season. My birthday is in early October, which usually coincides with the leaves falling for the very first time and that beautiful sunny cold crispy air that only just requires a jumper. I can't wait.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Rum and Chocolate

This is a Cherry Cream Sundae. You can store them in the freezer for two weeks and take them out as you want them.

Makes ten

You will need:
284ml carton double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
200g/8oz toasted almonds or hazelnuts, chopped (I would make it 150g/6oz or even 100g/4oz if making it again)
2-3 tbsp dark rum
10 amaretti biscuits
10 fresh or canned cherries
50g/2oz dark chocolate, melted to drizzle

1. Arrange ten paper muffin cases on a baking sheet. Whisk together the cream and icing sugar until stiff. Fold in the almonds or hazelnuts (it will seem like a lot but don't worry) and the rum.

2. Crumble the biscuits and put the pieces in the bottom of the cases. Divide the cream between them and top with a cherry.

3. Freeze for 1-2 hours until firm. Remove from the freezer 20 minutes before serving and drizzle with the chocolate.

Each one contains 329 calories so go slow...

Julie at Little Cotton Rabbits is blogging again as her children (she has an autistic son) are back at school. Her blog is a cool blend of knitting, family stories, gardening and flowers with a dash of Cath Kidston for good's a great mix. She's celebrating her second anniversary (all my favourite blogs tend to be this old :@)) and is running a competition to win one of her beautiful knitted toys...all you have to do is leave a comment...but bear in mind there are 400+ already there!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Manga me!

Alice recently made a manga image of herself on her blog which inspired me to copy her! They're so adorable. I defy you not to fall in love with your own image when visiting this site and creating one. For the record I don't really have jet black hair although it has been in the past. It's a very dark brown now with blonde highlights that are quickly going to be dyed brown once more on my next visit to the hairdresser! My eyes are green but I think they are given a watery hue by the glasses. I have a red winter jacket and it's just the type of jewellery I would wear to the office, although I have never worn red lipstick. I tried for pink but they only had a bright shade...not that I'm obsessive at all...

I seem to have surrounded myself in the past two weeks with all things Japanese. I've been off work so have found myself attempting to learn the language. It's going very well so far as I feel it to be very logical and the stories behind the symbols are fascinating. 'Love' is a combination of 'woman' and 'child', and 'bright' is a combination of 'sun' and 'moon'. It's very poetic. I didn't realise it was a 12 hour flight from London to Tokyo! I've never flown before so think it'll be a few years before I attempt that. I still haven't managed the 1 hr 20 min flight from Bristol to Cork in Southern Ireland.

Here's one of the stuffies I've made from the Japanese book I recently bought. I'm sure there will be many more. They're very addictive!

This is the Japanese Kanji for 'Craft'. Very simple, in fact one of the simplest of the lot.

Alice was also tagged in a meme and she wrote about six unspectacular quirks about herself. If I was at work and wasn't starting to get bored I wouldn't have done this, but as it goes:

1. I've never flown anywhere in a plane.
2. I count the number of letters in a word and see if I can make another word or a sentence out of the middle letters. I do this only when I'm very bored. So it's not sad. OK? :@)
3. I love the smell of candles when you have just blown them out.
4. I'm allergic to citric acid so can't drink lemon juices or eat yogurt with it in (a lot do). If I do make the mistake of eating one I feel as if I'm choking and all the skin has been burnt off my throat.
5. I walk on different sides of streets to make my journey to and from work more interesting. I've walked the same 15 minute journey for two years now and it's getting a little monotonous.
6. I still like flying saucer sweets. (Don't tell anyone :@))

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Pin the tail...

Oh my god - I've made a stoned Donkey! Despite appearances, this wasn't supposed to look delirious or inebriated. It was all going so well until I hit a major problem with the eyes. Previously when making a felt stuffie I have made the eyes out of black felt but have discovered in my numerous experiments that black felt pollutes light felt and can make it look dirty. Strange how I didn't remember that when starting my light pink Donkey!

A bit of a panic swept over me as I had sewn the rest of it up and couldn't perform a surgical procedure to sew the eyes on. So I rooted around in a drawer and found some little eyes for toy making (not mine I hasten to add - I'm not that organised). Apparently, so I'm told, you can lessen the 'stoned look' by creating eyelids to stick over the eyes, but as I said the Donkey was all sewn up by that point.

Another thing I would do differently if making this again would be to mind how it looks from behind(!) I need a rotary cutter and one of those invisible ink pens I've seen for sale that dissapear magically 24 hours after you draw on material with them. I also didn't stuff the extra legs - but hey you can't always be perfect in life!

Monday, 18 August 2008

One hundred and counting...

I've finally finished organising all my DMC threads. I didn't realise I had so many browns but I guess that's no bad thing as I like stitching animals and natural scenes. It's my birthday in about 2 months and I think I'll be making use of the fact that I only have stickers left for threads I don't own...quite a handy birthday shopping list for someone.

Actually, it's surprising how people don't buy me sewing or craft items for christmas or birthdays...they fret and worry so much they forget all they have to do is order a bag of threads or material and wrap know what they say...small things...

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Beatrix Potter Tin

After a recent tidy-up of my room ready for a nice new desk and hopefully some order in my craft supplies and projects, I found this...isn't she cute? I think this was stitched quite recently as I remember being quite proud that my stitches has started to look quite neat.

I found this adorable tin in a nifty cancer charity shop (full of gifts and cards not the usual second hand items). I haven't used it much yet - if you look closely you can see that the book cover opens but I didn't want to take a photo of the inside of a tin and couldn't make it stay open. I thought perhaps it would be useful for my little DMC bobbins when stitching a project as they are floating around my sofa at the moment while I'm working on a bear.

I loved Beatrix Potter so much, she was amongst the very first authors I read and I remember distinctly thinking that the drawings must have been printed - they couldn't possibly have been drawn by someone! How exciting to discover she was more talented than I thought!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

The Bees Knees

Aren't they cute? I picked a pack of beeswax sheets up from our flower show last saturday and ripped the packet open a second ago. I made them a little quickly but I was so excited! The big candle looks nice from this angle but I think two sheets would have been better as the purple outer sheet turned out not to have been cut accurately, which is kind of important when making candles from them. The yellow and blue candles are fab though!

The beeswax felt so satisfying as it melted when wrapped around a bottle of warm water - I remember being fascinated by candle wax when at primary school and making candles drip on purpose. I even covered my hands with it and cracked it off when dry...pleasure! Although it was never as pleasing as covering your hands with copydex and pulling it off. I can't believe I used to do that! I think I may just have to look the bee farm up on the internet and order some more - they were only £3 for the lot and I would have got another small candle if I hadn't used three sheets for the big one...

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Stuffed Donkey

Recently on one of my regular visits to Future Girl (aka Alice)I was drooling over a little squirrel she had made out of felt. The absolute perfection of the work made me sit and stare in awe. I had no idea how much work went into a 'stuffy'!

Through her I found a Japanese seller on eBay and my first felt book arrived very soon afterwards. This was my first one and boy was I nervous making it up. I really didn't expect to end up with a Donkey at the end of it. I would say I had to concentrate harder than cross stitch as you think it will be easy but it's so not...

I have much to improve upon - the stitching is awful and I had a tendency to rush. It didn't help that it's August and my hands are so hot! At first the layout of the Japanese book scared me a little - of course it runs from back to front, and, not surprisingly, is in Japanese, which is, also unsuprisingly, a little off-putting. However, once you get going and have looked at the picture of the animal you want to make carefully I would say it's relatively simple!

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